Use Excel as a calculator


Performing arithmetic operations is a core feature of Excel. The following examples and exercises aim to build your skills in using Excel for basic analyses.

Mathematical operations on numbers

Excel can be used as a calculator by including an equal to (=) symbol in any cell. For example, if you want to add 53 to 55, simply type =53+55 in any cell (say J23) and press Enter.

Similarly, you can subtract, multiply or divide numbers:

  • To subtract 13 from 50 type =50-13 in any cell (say J24) and press Enter.
  • To multiply 28 with 4 type =28*4 in a cell and press Enter.
  • To divide 54 by 5 type =54/5 in a cell and press Enter.
  • To raise 5 to the power 3 (i.e. 53), type =5^3 in a cell and press Enter.

Seek Excel Help to obtain information about other operators. Note that including an equal symbol is critical for these calculations.

Mathematical operations by referring to numbers stored in cells

You can perform all the calculations and operations by referring to cells. For example, if you want to add calving to conception interval for two cows (say 4 and 6):

  • select a cell where you want to store the results (say D10)
  • Type = and select the first cell (D4)
  • Type + and select the second cell (D6). The spreadsheet should look like the one shown below in Fig 2 below. Press enter to obtain the results.
Adding numbers from two cells

Figure 2. Adding numbers from two cells: note that the same formula is displayed both in cell D10 and in the formula bar.

Note that typing =D4+D6 in cell D10 will produce the same result. Similarly, typing =B5*E2 in a cell would be the same as typing =28*4; =C5/E5 would be the same as =54/5; =E7^3 or E7^E4 would be the same as =5^3.

Exercise 3

  • Subtract the contents of cell B3 from C3.
  • Divide B6 by 30 to calculate FIRSTEST in months.
  • Raise E2 to the power 2.